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HER Number:MDV8252
Name:The Three Crowns Hotel, Chagford


The Three Crowns comprises a mid 16th century town house fronting the High Street with late 18th and early 19th century wings at the rear. It was built by Sir John Whiddon (or Whyddon); a judge in one of Chagford's leading families in the 16th/17th centuries who also built Whiddonpark House. It is not known when the property became an inn but it was known as The Black Swan by the late 17th century. The building was gutted by fire in the early 18th century but was reroofed and refurbished. It was renamed The Three Crowns by the late 18th century. The remains of a medieval townhouse have been uncovered beneath the south-east wing. This was partly demolished and partly incorporated into the 16th century building. It was not rebuilt following the early 18th century fire and was only replaced in the late 18th and early 19th century.


Grid Reference:SX 700 874
Map Sheet:SX78NW
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishChagford
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishCHAGFORD

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: SX78NW30
  • National Record of the Historic Environment: 445545
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX78NW/22
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II*): 94643

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • INN (Altered, Early Medieval to XVII - 1066 AD (Between) to 1699 AD (Between))
  • TOWN HOUSE (Built, XVI - 1535 AD (Between) to 1575 AD (Between))

Full description

Ormerod, G. W., 1876, A historical sketch of the parish of Chagford, 77 (Article in Serial). SDV259032.

Site visited 21/11/1977. Two-storey granite house with thatched roof and stone mullioned windows. Two-storeyed porch cobbled and contains remains of seats. Ordnance Survey gives SX70078750 as grid reference for the building. Formerly known as the Black Swan, which was granted as a crest to the judge, John Whiddon.

Department of Environment, 1960, Okehampton RD, 4 41 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV275388.

(06/02/1960) The Three Crowns Hotel, Chagford (at SX 70078750 on OS 25" 1957) is an early sixteenth century, two storey granite house with a thatched roof and stone mullioned windows. The porch, also two storeyed, is cobbled and contains the remains of seats.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1981, SX78NW30 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV306729.

(24/11/1981) The Three Crowns Hotel is as described. See ground photographs.

Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N., 1989, The Buildings of England: Devon, 250 (Monograph). SDV325629.

The Three Crowns was originally a ower house of Whiddonpark House (SX 78 NW 53) and is probably late C16th. It was originally a two-room plan with a through-passage, but three rear blocks were added in the C19th to enclose a small courtyard. Grade II*.

Quick, T., 1992, Dartmoor Inns, 120-121 (Monograph). SDV359976.

Originally built as a manor house by John Wyddon incorporating parts of a 13th century monks' hospice. Later became a church house and then dower house of the Whiddon family, being part of the Whiddon Park Estate. Date when it first became an inn is uncertain. Its first name was The Black Swan. In the early 17th century there are two tragedies recorded; in 1641, Mary Whyddon was shot by a jealous lover as she returned from her wedding in the nearby church. Also, in 1643, Sidney Godolphin, a young cavalry officer (also a poet and Member of Parliament for Helston) was shot following the battle at Bloody Meadow near the head of Fingle Gorge. He was taken to the Three Crowns and laid on a stone bench before being taken to the Tower Room where he died of his wounds. The Godolphin Bar is named in his memory and he is said to haunt the inn.
Hotel comprises a spacious dinging room and the Godolphin and Wyddon lounge bar. Both bars have open fireplaces of exposed stone. Huge oak beams in the ceiling are remarkably well preserved.

Rice, I., 2002, The Book of Chagford. A Town Apart, 4, 8, 20, 22-24, 46, 65, 105-106, 113, 116, 134, 136, 141 (Monograph). SDV356605.

The Three Crowns is reputedly on the site of the old Stannary Courthouse. Built as a town house for the Whyddon family in the 16th century. Previously known as 'Whiddon House'.
The iron railings outside the hotel were removed as part of the wartime scrap drive. The porch of the Three Crowns is probably the second most-recognisable structure in Chagford, after the Market House. A butcher's shop on the forecourt adjacent to the porch on the north-west opened up by 1857. The structure was removed in the early 1950s, also having served for a time as Splatt's Dairy.

Thorp, J. R. L., 2010, The Three Crowns, Chagford, 1- (Report - Survey). SDV347635.

The Three Crowns was built as a town house in the 16th century by Sir John Whiddon (or Whyddon); a judge in one of Chagford's leading families in the 16th/17th centuries. It is unclear when the property became an inn but it was formally known as the Black Swan. The building is a two storey courtyard plan house the major section of which comprises the 16th century frontage on the High Street, Chagford, which has a two-storey porch over the doorway. Building has undergone major rebuilds in the early 18th century through to the late 20th century.
Phase 1: the Whiddon Dower House. The 16th century house appears to have had a two-room and cross-passage plan. No original interior carpentry remains and the only original features are two remaining fireplaces; one at each end. Keystone argue that this phase is likely to date to at least the mid-16th century.
Phase 2: early 18th century rebuild. Evidence of this rebuild is confined to the 16th century front block of the building. The old house appears to have been gutted leaving only the shell of the outer stone walls intact so almost all the interior features in this area are early 18th century. Such an extreme rebuilding may indicate damage by fire.
Phase 3: 19th century rear wings. The rear buildings contain mostly service rooms on the ground floor and hotel chambers on the first floor. These areas have been regularly and thoroughly renovated since their construction. The two main rear wings may be those shown on the Tithe Map of 1840 but it is likely that one or both is a substantial rebuilding on the existing footprint depicted here.
Phase 4: 20th century alterations. Major alterations due to the increase in tourist trade, included expanding to the north to create a carriageway to the rear of the hotel. There was a general modernisation of the hotel in around the 1960s-1970s and all of the older internal doors and joinery was replaced. A major rebuild in the 1980s saw the rear west wing rebuilt with a new extension and the courtyard was completely infilled.

Ordnance Survey, 2011, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV346129.

English Heritage, 2011, National Heritage List for England (National Heritage List for England). SDV347072.

Inn, originally the dower house of Whiddonpark House. Probably late 16th century, refurbished in mid 17th, 18th and 19th century rear blocks, early 20th century extension to main block and main block modernised in mid 20th century. Main front of coursed blocks of granite ashlar, the rest is granite rubble and main block extension is plastered and maybe brick; granite stacks, one still with its original granite ashlar; the main block roof is thatch to the front and slate to the rear and rear blocks.
Plan: courtyard plan house. The oldest part is the main block built along the street, facing north-east, and set back a little from it. It originally had a 2-room plan with a through passage between but the passage has now been blocked by the bars and there is now a lobby entrance. Each room has a gable end stack. Front 2-storey porch. A small room to rear of the larger right room, now an office, may represent the site of the former stair. The three rear blocks enclose a small courtyard which has been mostly infilled with service outshots. These have been massively rearranged and much rebuilt in the late 19th and 20th century. In the early 20th century the front block was extended to right by one small room and a carriageway. Two storeys throughout.
Exterior: original part of the front has a nearly symmetrical 2:1:2-window front; probably late 16th century granite windows with hollow-chamfered mullions and contain rectangular panes of leaded glass. All have hoodmoulds over and those on the ground floor have relieving arches. The main block windows are 3 lights and the first floor porch window is two light (this one a 20th century replacement). The gabled porch has a 4-centred outer arch with moulded surround and hoodmould. There is a small rectangular niche directly above with a projecting frame. On either side original windows have been enlarged to doorways and the single light first floor windows are 20th century. Another 20th century first floor window immediately right of the porch. At the right end is an inserted doorway with gabled and slate-roofed porch. The extension to right of this has a ground floor granite and two first floor timber casements. Roof runs parallel with the street between the adjoining properties. The rear blocks contain late 19th and 20th century fenestration. The oldest feature is late 17th or 18th century; a solid oak chamfered frame containing an old plank door in the right gable end of the rear block. Interior: only the main block shows any features earlier than the 19th century. The porch has stone benches each side. The front doorway has the shape of a Tudor arch but it is clad with 20th century boards. The left room has a mid 17th century soffit-chamfered and scroll- stopped crossbeam and the two crossbeams in the right room are similar except the scroll stops here are augmented with two nicks each. Both fireplaces have ovolo-moulded granite jambs but have replacement lintels; the left one with a slab of granite, the right one with an oak lintel finished the same as the crossbeams above sides built up roughly with rubble. The main 7-bay roof may be mid 17th or even 18th century and comprises a series of tall A-frame trusses with pegged lap-jointed collars. The Three Crowns is reputed to have been built by Sir John Whiddon as the dower house of Whiddponpark House. As an inn it was formerly called the Black Swan (the Whiddon crest). The building is of immense value to the centre of Chagford and forms part of an attractive group of listed buildings in the vicinity of the Church of St Michael.

Walls, S. + Morris, B., 2012, The Three Crowns, Chagford, Devon. Results of Archaeological Monitoring and Recording (Report - Watching Brief). SDV351049.

Programme of archaeological monitoring undertaken during the renovation of The Three Crowns, a mid 16th century thatched building with late 18th and early 19th century wings at the rear. It was originally built as a dower or town house of the local Whiddon family. The property remained in the ownership of the family into the late 17th century when it became The Black Swan, a black swan being part of the Whiddon family crest. By the late 18th century it had been renamed The Three Crowns. The southern end of the 19th century south-east wing was truncated when a function room was built in the 20th century which has itself now been demolished.
The remains of the foundations and cobble floors of a narrow-plan medieval townhouse that once fronted the High Street were revealed during groundworks to the south-east wing. A hearth of large, flat dressed granite slabs was also uncovered. This appeared to cut into a cobble floor suggesting it was a later insertion. The townhouse was partly demolished along with several adjoining properties when The Three Crowns was built in the 16th century. Fireplaces were inserted into the surviving medieval elements. A major fire occurred in the early 18th century gutting both the medieval and 16th century buildings. The 16th century range was refurbished and reroofed but the medieval building was demolished. A new non-domestic building was constructed over part the site of the medieval building in the later 18th century which was linked to the front range with the insertion of a stable block in the early 19th century.
A good assemblage of early 18th century pottery, bottle glass and clay pipes was recovered from the demolition deposits suggestive of an inn clearance deposit. The pottery was dominated by North Devon coarsewares, mainly heavy bowls and cooking pots, but also included a small amount of North Devon fine wares, South Somerset wares and Bristol/Staffordshire yellow slipware vessels. No medieval pottery was identified and little 19th century material was recovered suggesting that successive building operations have terraced deeper into the slight slope on which the site is located removing earlier deposits.
In addition to the monitoring of groundworks, an impact assessment was also undertaken on proposed changes and repairs to the thatched roof. Only the north-eastern pitch of the 16th century range and the two storey porch are currently thatched. All the other structures have slate roofs as does the rear pitch of the 16th century range. The roof structure is of a late 17th century/early 18th century date and corresponds with a rebuilding programme, probably the result of the fire. Prior to this the roof of the 16th century range was probably slated - an obelisk finial is now obscured by the thatch. There is no evidence for any smoke-blackening. A new oak roof structure has been inserted to support the failing elements of the failing the original roof.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV259032Article in Serial: Ormerod, G. W.. 1876. A historical sketch of the parish of Chagford. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 8. Unknown. 77.
SDV275388List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1960. Okehampton RD. Historic Houses Register. Unknown. 4 41.
SDV306729Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1981. SX78NW30. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV325629Monograph: Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N.. 1989. The Buildings of England: Devon. The Buildings of England: Devon. Hardback Volume. 250.
SDV346129Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2011. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #108269 ]
SDV347072National Heritage List for England: English Heritage. 2011. National Heritage List for England. Website.
SDV347635Report - Survey: Thorp, J. R. L.. 2010. The Three Crowns, Chagford. Keystone Historic Buildings Consultants Report. K779 + K779-2. A4 Comb Bound. 1-.
SDV351049Report - Watching Brief: Walls, S. + Morris, B.. 2012. The Three Crowns, Chagford, Devon. Results of Archaeological Monitoring and Recording. Southwest Archaeology Report. 120603. A4 Comb Bound + Digital.
SDV356605Monograph: Rice, I.. 2002. The Book of Chagford. A Town Apart. The Book of Chagford. Hardback Volume. 4, 8, 20, 22-24, 46, 65, 105-106, 113, 116, 134, 136, 141.
SDV359976Monograph: Quick, T.. 1992. Dartmoor Inns. Dartmoor Inns. Paperback Volume. 120-121.

Associated Monuments

MDV114217Related to: 42 the Square, Chagford (Building)
MDV114109Related to: Butcher's shop outside the Three Crowns, Chagford (Building)
MDV114107Related to: Stannary Court, Chagford (Building)
MDV8249Related to: The Church House, High Street, Chagford (Building)
MDV114124Related to: The Royal Oak, The Square, Chagford (Building)
MDV8277Related to: Whiddonpark House, Chagford (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV5202 - Assessment of the Three Crowns, Chagford
  • EDV6126 - Archaeological Monitoring and Recording at The Three Crowns, Chagford (Ref: 120603)

Date Last Edited:Jun 24 2022 2:52PM